When you are able to spend more time in your day being proactive than reactive, you will find that your productivity increases. You’ll be able to truly work less and achieve more. One of the ways to be proactive is to spend time each day, week, month, and year planning. Using the words of Brian Moran, the author of The 12 Week Year, “...you set your goals for the day instead of letting the day direct you. Intentionality is your secret weapon in your war on mediocrity.”
When you know what’s coming, you can prepare for it and decide how to best handle it.
Early in a coaching relationship, my clients and I discuss the value of consistent planning. The specifics vary by client, but two parts remain the same – consistency and dedicated time for forward, strategic thinking. Early on I didn’t realize that each of my clients had a different view of what those “forward, strategic thinking” activities were.
We were typically on the same page when it came to consistency. Most clients do some type of weekly planning (some on Friday, others on Sunday, and still others on Monday), followed by daily planning (some in the morning, some in the afternoon, and still others at the end of the work day). A good number of my clients also see the value in quarterly and yearly planning, while a few also throw in monthly planning sessions.
The frequency varies by client. But those that reap the greatest value stayed consistent.
What constituted forward, strategic thinking activities varied greatly from client to client. Some believed that planning was looking at the calendar for the next week and deciding if they were going to order dinner out due to a late meeting. Others made sure that all the kids’ activities were covered and that was the extent of their planning. Another client looked to see how many deadlines she was behind on, so she knew what work to try to cram in over the weekend.
The challenge here … I had an idea of what I THOUGHT they were doing during their planning time and was confused with why they weren’t experiencing the results I had expected! It’s because we hadn’t discussed a plan for how to use the planning time! (Yep – I see the irony!)
Now, we discuss very clearly what components belong in the “planning block.”
First – define the goal. Typically, my goal in planning is to make sure I …
- am prepared to seize any opportunity to work less and achieve more.
- am clear on what activities are coming up in the next week and that I have all the materials needed for those activities.
- am realistic on my energy needs. Do I have “recharge time” scheduled?
- have a time scheduled for strategic and maintenance tasks. In other words, do I have time to work IN and ON the business?
Your goals may differ. Maybe one of your goals is to make sure you have family time scheduled. Maybe you have an exercise focus. What you are trying to eliminate is the last minute rush for deadlines, the feeling of “if I had just thought that through I could have . . .”, and making decisions from a reactive place.
Secondly – create a checklist of items to consider when planning. Which items make sense for you to include?
- Strategic thinking
- Client appointments
- Follow-up time for client appointments
- Standing meetings
- Administrative / maintenance tasks (more information about this here)
- Prep for client meetings
- Customer service
- Staff development / leadership
- Project work
- Email / voicemail processing
- Family time
- Exercise time
- Recharge time
- Planning time
The items on your Planning Checklist will differ based on your own goals and vision. However, what is important is that you identify what the important pieces are for you.
Here are current Planning Checklists for two of my clients. (Yes, I did specify “current” because as goals change, so will your checklist needs!)
Client A makes sure that each week she has structured in time for …
- 6.5 hours of sleep each night
- Email processing
- Time to strategically think through items to delegate to her assistant and interns
- Meetings with her assistant and interns (NOTE: the delegation planning needs to happen BEFORE the meeting!)
- Time daily to implement the 80/20 Rule when assessing the To-Do list
- Marketing activities (her goal is to stay with 15 – 20% of the week spent marketing and often it is higher)
- Time to finish client projects
Client B’s checklist looks a bit different. Each week she makes sure to schedule time for
- Organizing the kids’ schedules
- Meal prep
- Recharge batteries (this does NOT include work functions – but total “me” time)
- Checking up on the kids’ chores
- Spouse time
- Work schedule (rescheduling any meetings that were incorrectly scheduled)
- Client prep time
These examples and tips should give you a good starting point to create your own Planning Checklist. Remember, this is a fluid process – as your needs change, your list will too. Plan to revisit your plans often - yes, part of that maintenance I talked about).
I’d love to hear from you – how do you plan your schedule currently? How have these ideas shifted your thinking? Comment below!